UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — After months of talks, a plan to build 20 condos inside a turn-of-the-century church and school is moving forward, with members of a neighborhood group voting nearly unanimously to approve a developer's project, named "The Belfry."
At a packed meeting on the back patio of Whisk, 2018 W. Chicago Ave. on Thursday, members of the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association voted 10-2 to support developer Alex Troyanovsky's conversion of St. John Church and School at 913-25 N. Hoyne Ave. into condos.
An additional "community vote," of those who are not part of the local group but live in Ukrainian Village and wanted to weigh in, supported the project, 9-2.
After the meeting, Steve Niketopoulos, president of the group, said that he added the community vote to allow those who are not members to have their voices heard.
"We don't want anyone to think that neighborhood groups run the show. I have been following social media comments on this issue, and in taking two tallies we are ensuring everyone has a say," Niketopoulos said.
Laura Johnson, who is not a member of the group, lives in a condo in a vintage building about one block from the church and came to the meeting with four of her neighbors.
"That church has been vacant for a long time. I prefer always to see something renovated than torn down. It could have been brick generic and homogenized condos. This is much better," Johnson said.
George Matwyshyn, a member of the neighborhood group and local resident since 1955, said he voted for the project but called his vote "the lesser of two evils."
Matwyshyn would prefer that the project offer around 12 or 15 condos rather than 19 or 20, but he said that if Troyanovsky had been allowed to demolish the church, the zoning for the substantial lot could have easily seen as many as 32 units.
As part of an earlier agreement to allow the group to talk about the project freely, builder Igor Michin and Tryanovsky were not present Thursday. However Joe Kotoch, a Realtor who will be selling the homes, was there to answer questions.
Kotoch said the two- and three-bedroom dwellings and condos in The Belfry are scheduled to be complete by next summer.
The church condos will be completed first, while condos inside of a neighboring school are slated to be ready for delivery in early 2016, provided all goes as planned.
Currently Kotoch said they are not sure if there can be nine or 10 condos in the school building, since a larger penthouse unit could be planned.
With interior work well underway on the project, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) had been awaiting a positive response from the community group before supporting the granting any further building permits.
Reached by phone Friday, Fioretti said, "It should be a good project, and we hope they can move forward on it soon."
"We have been on the location with developers and architects several times to discuss issues. My staff and I also reviewed traffic patterns, and they complied with the requests of community," Fioretti said.
Built in 1905, St. John's Lutheran Church was designed by architects Henry Worthmann & John Steinbach, who were among the city's most accomplished church designers," according to a Landmark Commission report.
Most recently used by members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the seven-lot, 17,532-square-foot parcel had been on the market since 2005 and was declared a city landmark in March 2013, just weeks after being bought by Troyanovsky, a prolific real estate developer.
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